Acne is a familiar and recognizable skin concern that anyone can face in their lives, probably teenagers and young adults. It is the result of clogging of skin pores or plugging of hair follicles by excess sebum, dead skin cells, dirt, and sometimes acne-causing bacteria which leads to inflammatory acne types like papules, pustules, nodules, and cysts. If the acne breakouts are not the result of bacterial infection, they are non-inflammatory types like open and closed comedones (also called blackheads and whiteheads).
Acne is not at all a gender-biased condition, both men and women may have to deal with it at some point in their lives. This article focuses only on acne in men. Keep reading to know everything about it.
Causes of Acne in Males
Male acne breakouts are usually seen on the face or back. Sweating can worsen it more. Acne on the backs of males is usually seen in hot weather or after their body workouts, however, these are harder to control than that appearing on their face. Men tend to have a longer phase of acne in their lifetime lasting from puberty to early-mid adulthood.
One of the main triggers of acne in men is hormonal changes. The male sex hormone (androgens) called testosterone is released more in males and is known to have many receptors in the sebaceous glands on it. Thus, males can get acne as a result of more sebum production. Many activities can spike the levels of testosterone in men and at their skin level resulting in more acne breakouts. In general, these include stress, genetic profile, age, exercise, and sexual intercourse.
Furthermore, men have facial hair that could trap excess oils and even be the breeding ground for acne-causing bacteria. However, one must be aware of the difference between acne-looking bumps and real acne. The real culprit for bumps that mimic traditional acne is ingrown hairs or folliculitis.
Acne in males is also mostly because of them having a family history of acne. Our genetic make-up largely determines the density, type, and sensitivity of the cell receptors to the hormones. For those males who have their family members suffering from acne, they receive a higher density of testosterone receptors on their skin from their family members. As their body simply becomes more genetically receptive to testosterone, this results in more chances of them having acne breakouts.
Other possible triggers for acne breakouts in men include the use of certain medications, environmental irritants like smog particles and hot temperatures leading to excess sweating, use of hair-skin products that could clog the skin pores or underlying undiagnosed medical conditions. [1, 2]
Symptoms of Hormonal Acne in Males
One can identify hormonal male acne as raised, red, and tender bumps or large white/red bumps filled with pus usually appearing on the lower half of the face including the neck, jawline, chin, and cheeks. Men also have hormonal body acne because of the higher density of sebaceous glands per hair follicle on their shoulders, chest, and back. 
How to Treat Male Acne?
Dermatologists offer many remedies for acne. It’s best recommended to ask a skin professional about their acne to get appropriate treatment. Mild acne can improve in appearance after the use of over-the-counter acne products while stubborn acne responds better to dermatologist-prescribed medications. Acne treatment plans do not fit all patients; however certain conditions might justify the below-mentioned tactics:
- For pimples (pustules/papules)– benzoyl peroxide, azelaic acid, or benzoyl peroxide along with a topical antibiotic or a retinoid.
- For whiteheads and blackheads (comedones)– salicylic acid, a retinoid, a retinoid along with azelaic acid and benzoyl peroxide, or benzoyl peroxide with a topical antibiotic.
- For cysts and acne nodules– A prescribed medication that includes antibiotics, benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid, and retinoids or a drug named isotretinoin.
There are even high-tech treatment options available that are performed by skin experts in their clinic. These can be tried after several weeks of topical skin treatments when they fail to provide desired results.
- Photodynamic Therapy– A skin-sensitizing medication that gets activated by blue light is applied to the skin followed by exposure to that light. The heat generated from the light can help clear moderate to severe inflammatory acne.
- Laser Skin Resurfacing– Ablative lasers that generate thermal energy can be used to remove the skin layers one by one with precision and reveal tighter, refreshing, and clearer skin.
- Chemical Peels– These are acidic solutions that exfoliate the skin i.e. remove the dead skin cells, thereby unclogging the skin pores and preventing acne breakouts.
- Incision and Drainage– It is used for large, painful nodules or cysts.
- Injection of Cysts with Cortisone– The large nodule or cyst can be quickly reduced in size and pain by injecting it with corticosteroid. [2, 3, 4]
Skin Tips to Prevent or Effectively Clear Mild to Moderate Acne Breakouts In Men:
- Daily wash face at least twice a day- morning and night to keep the skin free from impurities, excess oils, and make-up. Use a gentle cleanser with benzoyl peroxide as the main ingredient to clean the face. Avoid rubbing the skin and frequent washing. Also, shampoo hair especially if it’s dirty and oily.
- For any blemishes, spot- treat them with clinically-formulated skin products containing benzoyl peroxide to remove existing acne and prevent a new one from forming.
- In case of oily skin type, use lightweight, not strong-fragranced, oil-free moisturizer to keep the skin hydrated.
- Apply retinol on the acne-prone skin 1-2 times a week. This will help in sloughing off the dead skin cells as well as reducing oil secretion, hence preventing clogging of skin pores which is the hallmark of pimples. It could also help in the removal of blackheads and whiteheads.
- Make sure to daily wear sunscreens with SPF 30 or above.
- Do not wear tight headbands, caps, or hats.
- Keep hands off the face. Avoid touching it with the fingers or hands.
- For body acne, it’s recommended to opt for breathable, light-colored clothing and use of thinner microfiber gym towel. [1,3]